Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hozier at Irving Plaza

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known simply as Hozier, was born on St. Patrick's Day 1990 in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. The son of a musician, he taught himself to play guitar and piano, and was already fronting a soul band when he was 15 years old. Later, he attended Trinity College in Dublin to study music and joined the Trinity Orchestra, but dropped out midway through his first year in order to record demos in a simple studio he created in his attic. In 2013 he recorded a four-track EP, Take Me to the Church, playing most of the instruments and singing all the parts. The title track became his breakthrough song after its video showing a hate crime against a same-sex couple went viral on YouTube. Hozier followed with the 2014 EP From Eden. Hozier's self-titled debut solo album was release globally in October 2014.

When Hozier booked his 2014 North American club tour, his breakout single "Take Me to Church" was still at the buzz stage. He performed at the Bowery Ballroom in May and six months later closed his tour with two headlining nights at Irving Plaza, even as his March 2015 theater tour sold out in advance. Hozier started his set plucking off notes to the gentle, brooding Irish-folk-sounding "Like Real People Do" on a hollow-bodied guitar. Mid-song, his band began accompanying him, playing softly in the background. The excited audience was unable to match the quiet reverence, cheering loudly and repeatedly through the song. In the darkness of the room, Hozier continued with a similarly dark and jazzy "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene," also from his first EP. As steam rose from his cup of hot tea, Hozier displayed little flare, chatted briefly with the audience between songs in what sounded like a humble mumble, and generally made the performance exceptionally homey. Mid-set, Hozier's love of American blues was established with his cover of Skip Jones' "Illinois Blues," which he played, along with a couple of original songs, solo on a nylon-string acoustic guitar. His songs articulated emotional aching and longing, and his haunting vocals matched the tone well. Hozier concluded his main set with his signature song, "Take Me to Church," his anthem about worshipping a lover, and returned for two encore songs, a cover of Amerie's "1 Thing" and his own "From Eden," performed in quintuple time signature. Hozier showed he was an artist with the skill to craft solid songs, present them with a charming, minimalistic musical arrangement and sing with enough raw manly-yet-sensitive emotion to make for an appealing performance.

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